Advent Day 28: The Gift as Promised

December 24

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

Gifts are set out. Children are giddy with excitement. People are preparing to travel. Families gather. Soon the sun will set, and an expectant hush will fall across the earth. The stars will shine against an inky black sky like they did that night so many years ago. The waiting is coming to an end. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day that marks the birth of the Messiah. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Savior of the world, born.

The planning, the praying, the seeking after God – leaning in to hope, love, joy, and peace – recognizing Advent, it all comes to this. The eve of the Messiah’s birth.

Take a moment, find a quiet place. Breathe in the peace he provides, and exhale the stress of the season. For tomorrow, we celebrate.

For Today: How have you grown closer to God during this period of Advent? How has he shown you hope, love, joy and peace?

Advent Day 27

December 23

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19: 11 – 12 (NIV)

God told Elijah to leave the cave where he was hiding, stand on the mountain, and wait because He was about to pass by. That, right there, is intense enough. What came next was beyond powerful — wind tore mountains apart and shattered rocks, an earthquake rumbled up from the depths of the earth, a fire ate away at the land.

It’s natural to assume that the Almighty God was about to make an entrance, that each display of force served as a herald of his arrival. But scripture says God wasn’t in any of those things. Scripture says that God came after a gentle whisper.

To understand the significance of this, you have to consider Elijah’s emotional state. He was on the run from Queen Jezebel after killing Baal’s prophets. In the midst of fleeing, an angel of the Lord instructed Elijah to rest, then eat, rest, then eat. God knew that Elijah was exhausted.

He wanted Elijah rested, and He wanted Elijah to focus — hence the miraculous show of force. When God knew He had Elijah’s full attention, then came the whisper.

There it is.

Rest precedes the whisper — it did for Elijah, and it does for us — and sometimes, big, big things slam into our lives to get our attention and to prepare us. Prepare us to hear God’s still, small voice; peace comes on the wings of that whisper.

For Today: Looking back, can you recall times when God used something huge to get your attention, and in the aftermath, whispered peace and love into your life?

 

Advent Day 26

December 22

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

As Christmas nears, it’s only natural for us to look toward the new year. It’s appropriate that it happens in winter, blowing in on a fresh, cold breeze. Crisp white calendar pages fluttering open in the season’s wind. Twelve new months sit before us. Habit makes us fill those pages, but Christmas beckons us to leave space, margin, time for quiet, unplanned things to happen.

We know that the hustle can wear on us, make us feel haggard and exhausted. A calendar filled too full with plans leaves no room for Jesus to move in, sweep us off our feet, bust down the walls of our boxes. Not only does busyness cause anxiety, it takes away opportunities for the hush that often brings peace.

We don’t need to fill our calendars to feel productive. We don’t need to fill our days to the brim in an effort to avoid feeling all the hard things we may be avoiding. We don’t need to fill our time in order to appear successful.

For Today: Are there things you can cut from your 2017 calendar, before you even schedule them?

Advent Day 25: The Gift of Favor

December 21

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:14 (NIV)

A great company of heavenly hosts sang these praise-filled words to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. The angels were making the first announcement of Christ’s birth; God chose common shepherds with which to announce the birth of the Shepherd. It’s proof positive that the Good News is meant for every person on earth.

The angels also proclaimed the peace that comes only from God. It’s a soul-deep peace that flows as a result of God’s favor, and the birth of the Messiah is the greatest assurance that we are recipients of that favor. Jesus himself acts as the connection between his children on earth and his Father in heaven. Through the Messiah, we can be sure we have peace and favor from God.

For Today: In what ways has God shown you favor?

Advent Day 24: The Gift of Strength

December 20

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Psalm 29:11 (NIV)

The flood referenced in verse ten is most likely the great flood that Noah and his family survived. The Lord had complete control over that earth-changing, humanity-altering event. The Lord who sat enthroned over that flood is also the Lord who sits enthroned over our lives.

He’s the same Lord who came to earth as an infant.

Consider that for a moment.

The Lord, powerful enough to create the universe and everything in it, then flood the entire planet, came to earth in the form of a baby so that we can be reborn. The King enthroned forever laid, swaddled in plain linen, in the young arms of Mary. The same awe-inspiring power that orchestrated and controlled a cataclysmic flood, was contained in the body of a newborn.

In the midst of our own floods, we can experience peace as a result of the strength given to us by the Lord.

For Today: Ask the Lord in prayer today to flood your heart with the peace only he can provide.

Advent Day 23: The Gift of Peacemakers

December 19

Blessed are the peacemakers.
Matthew 5:9a (NIV)

Being a peacemaker is not an easy assignment. It’s a complete absence of pride. It means we have to apologize, smooth things over, and make amends — even if the other person or people involved in a conflict are unapologetic.

Jesus was the perfect example of a peacemaker. He calmed Martha when she was angry at her sister Mary. He defused a volatile scene when a woman accused of adultery was going to be stoned. Countless times Jesus acted as peacemaker when he or his apostles angered the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Being a peacemaker isn’t always about being the first to apologize when we’re part of a conflict. Sometimes a peacemaker isn’t part of a conflict at all; they’re just able to speak peace into a complicated situation.

Like all characteristics of a life lived for Christ, peace comes as a result of Christ’s birth and existence. Experiencing the gift of peace, and sharing that gift with others by being a peacemaker, is a direct reflection of the salvation Jesus came to bring.

For Today: Is there someone you should make peace with? If so, think of ways you can do that and commit to being a peacemaker.

Advent Day 22: The Gift of Peace

December 18

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 (NIV)

The holiday season can evoke anxiety, and even fear. The world tells us we need to exceed expectations – throw the best dinner parties, have the most elegantly decorated homes, give the best gifts – and it causes stress. Rarely if ever during Christmastime does society encourage us to stop and be still.

Stillness and rest draw us closer to Jesus, and from him we receive the gift of peace. It isn’t peace brought on by fleeting things, rather it’s a peace that comes from knowing we’re preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It’s a peace in knowing that nothing compares to the Utmost Gift given so many centuries ago. No gathering of people, in a home filled with gifts and wrapped in twinkling lights can compare to the heavenly hosts that stood beneath the brightest of stars to raise their voices and proclaim the Savior’s birth.

We’ve been given the gift of peace; it doesn’t go on sale and can’t be wrapped. It was delivered to us by the Father in the form of his Son.

For Today: Think of someone you know who might need encouragement today. Write them a note, send them an email, or give them a call. Above all, pray today and ask God to bless them with some time to stop and rest.

Advent Day 21: Choose Joy

December 17

Be joyful always.
I Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV)

Have you ever noticed how joyful children are? They get cranky when they’re tired or hungry or grounded, but for the most part, they rebound quickly. It’s because they don’t have the same worries and concerns that adults do. They’re inherently optimistic and aren’t bogged down by adult responsibilities.

Children are wonderful examples of 1 Thessalonians 5:16, and we would do well to emulate their joy.

As Jesus-followers, we have access to a joy that’s not shaken by circumstances. It’s a remnant of what Jesus has done in our lives, and it’s constant. It isn’t changed by the world. But like all aspects of our salvation, we’ve been given the choice to be joyful. The suggestion is that we gain perspective by flipping this scripture around. Instead of following scripture and saying, “Be joyful always,” we could choose to say, “Groan always.” We have the choice. We can groan if we want to over life’s difficulties, but scripture says to be joyful always, and nothing is a better directive than the word of God.

For Today: Christmas is less than a week away. Do you feel like you have too much to do, and not enough time? The good news is that there is still time for you to choose joy this Christmas. What do you need to decide to be joyful about today?

Advent Day 20: The Living Water Gives Joy

December 16

With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 12:3 (NIV)

The book of Isaiah, written about 700 years before the Messiah’s birth, is replete with prophecy of his arrival. Chapter 12 is only six verses long, but those verses paint a picture of what the life of a Jesus-follower looks like. They’re packed with praise over Jesus’ eventual coming, and encourage the believer to find joy in drawing from the well of salvation.

If salvation is a well, the reward of salvation – eternity, fellowship with God, grace, forgiveness, peace, life – is the water. The blessings that come from salvation are life-giving. One author offered this insight on Isaiah 12, “It is our duty by faith to draw water out of these wells, to take to ourselves the benefit and comfort that are treasured up for us in them.” The treasure of pure joy is the natural outcome of knowing Jesus as our life-sustaining Living Water.

For Today: What is one responsibility you have that is mundane or difficult? How can you change your perspective today to find joy in even the most routine tasks?

Advent Day 19: From Sorrow to Joy

December 15

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5 (NIV)

The holidays can be difficult for those who have suffered any form of loss. It’s a time that’s traditionally spent with the ones we love, but what do we do if the ones we love aren’t here? What if childhood hurts, addiction, anger, pride, or death have separated us from our people? How do we reconcile the pain we’re experiencing to celebrating the birth of the Messiah?

Psalm 56:8 says that God has recorded all of our tears on his scroll. Some translations say he has collected our tears in his bottle.  A God who keeps record of every one of our tears is a God who knows every detail of our lives.

God knows better than anyone that we’re hurting. Pain is the inevitable outcome of living in a fallen world. That’s why he sent Jesus to earth. Not to shine a light on our pain, but so the light of Jesus would overcome the pain-filled darkness. All the tears born from all the hurt have been overcome by the birth of Jesus. His life allows us to reap a harvest of joy from the tears sown in pain.

For Today: Is there a sorrow that is keeping you from experiencing the joy of Christmas? Take some time right now to pour out to God all of your pain so that he can help you walk through the next few days, and give you moments of joy in the midst of your sorrow.